Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Allah Test

Can a government go too far in removing religion? Yes. And have we seen this demonstrated in fact? Certainly. I've written before that just as I don't want to live in a theocracy like Iran, I don't want to live in a mandatory atheist state like North Korea. Both are nightmares. I'll stay right here in the U.S. where separation of church and state is, in fact, written into the First Amendment (how else can you interpret it?) Whatever your claim about the intent of this amendment, how it has in fact been interpreted for over two centuries is as a device for separating church and state; if you think the U.S. has succeeded despite its Constitution, rather than because of it, you have a bit of an uphill persuasive battle on your hands.

What's interesting is that the religions of atheist dictatorships are invariably replaced with an ideology that demands unquestioning obedience, sometimes right down to claiming special stars shining at the birth of their Dear Leader, as in North Korea. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, if you didn't know better, you'd say this ideology was just another religion. China actually has a national annual atheist award. To me, that's just plain creepy. It's not the state's job to tell what to believe or not believe in this regard.

Mark Caserta may agree with this statement on the surface, but one suspects that whatever defenses of religious freedom he mounts will benefit his own brand of Christianity, and devil take the rest. With respect to Michael Newdow's lawsuit to remove the words "So help me God" from the Oath of Office, Caserta has taken the usual tack - that in fact it's the atheist, by limiting the invasion of religion into government, that is preventing Christians from exercising their freedom of religion, and violating the First Amendment. There are much worse invasions of religious freedom going on around the world, as in the Catholic church's invasions of civil life in Chile and El salvador. Somehow I wonder whether Mark "Defender of Religious Freedom" Caserta is as active protecting people's freedoms there?

In fact there's a simple test to separate those who would defend religious freedom from those who just want to force their religion into the public sphere, and that test is the Allah test.

So, Mr. Caserta: would you feel just as good about an Obama inaugural oath that ended with "So help me Allah"?

I'll go out onto a limb and say "no".

So is it freedom of religion you're defending - or your freedom to force your religion on the rest of us?

No comments: